Every once in a while, PlayStation Plus’ monthly goodie-bag features something entirely new. Some are absolute belters, like Rocket League, while others sometimes struggle to get much attention even with PS+’s extra push, like Dead Star. July’s line-up saw The Game Bakers’ Furi debut on the platform, and it’s safe to say this could easily be placed in the “belter” category… with a few caveats.
Furi is an arena-based, hack ‘n slash/bullet hell hybrid that sees you play as a criminal escaping from a fantastical and surreal prison. Each stage pits you against a guardian tasked with preventing your escape through the liberal application of bullets, lasers, robots, and whatever else they can make use of.
The bulk of the game is pretty simple: step into an arena, battle through multiple rounds with an increasingly difficult boss, progress to the next one. Except the way each boss is differentiated from the next, and the relatively short runtime means it isn’t a formula that ever gets stale or repetitive.
The flow of the battles plays out more like tug of war than a standard fight.
The aesthetic feel, from the character designs to the environment, simply oozes style: deserts ruled by an old man who can control time, frozen tundras protected by a Hockey-themed warrior, prisoners fitted with CCTV cameras and alarm systems, there is a fantastic balance of keeping things fresh while maintaining a cohesive look. And this isn’t even mentioning the stellar synth soundtrack that brings it all together.
The battle against the mundane is reflected in the encounters themselves, too. The flow of the battles plays out more like tug of war than a standard fight: get wiped out by the boss and you’ll lose a life, but knocking the stuffing out of them will let you gain it back, allowing for some really tight comebacks.
Each fight can shift between screen-filling bullet hell sequences and up close and personal duelling hack ‘d slash segments. Every boss has their own “gimmick” that makes them feel distinct from each other, even if every arena is essentially the same thing with a different skin: the old man can use your own attacks against you, a diving-suit clad guardian can hide beneath the water, an angel will fly around the stage to force ranged combat, and so on. Some fights lean more on one than the other, but controlling the fight at all ranges feels smooth and satisfyingly meaty.
While this system of letting you claw your way back from the brink of defeat allows for some intense scenarios, it also highlights Furi’s biggest problem: the difficulty. Each stage can last for upwards of 20 minutes of high-intensity slashing, only to follow it up with a difficulty spike (or worse, another damn invincible dodge-the-bullets section) that knocks you out completely at the last possible moment. The game waits until you’re worn out to throw the hardest parts at you, meaning having to replay entire stages because of a last-second cockup is a regular occurrence.
It’s easy to brush that complain aside about a curt “git gud scrub”, but it’s worth pointing out the numerous technical hiccoughs that make “gitting gud” difficult. Input delay (particularly when dodging, which is a major arse ache in those bullet hell sections), framerate drops and freezing at inopportune moments means some losses can be due to no fault of your own. That, at the last second of a lengthy boss encounter, is frustrating.
Furi is a brief, tight experience that pulls off what it’s trying to do reasonably well. The visuals are stellar, and it takes its few mechanics and stretches them as far as it possibly can with its variety of enemy and encounter designs. While I’m dubious it’ll win any game of the year awards, it’s hard not to be impressed by what’s on offer here.
It’s no Rocket League, but Furi is certainly enough to justify my PS+ subscription this month.
Platform: PS4 (reviewed), PC
Developer/Publisher: The Game Bakers
Release date: July 5, 2016
- Fantastic aesthetic
- Engaging combat
- Simple but varied gameplay
- Unfair difficulty spikes
- Technical issues
Furi is a brief, tight experience that pulls off what it’s trying to do reasonably well. While I’m dubious it’ll win any game of the year awards, it’s hard not to be impressed by what’s on offer here.